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France deploys jets to Afghanistan

France is sending up to 10 Mirage 2000 fighter jets to Afghanistan
France is sending up to 10 Mirage 2000 fighter jets to Afghanistan  


PARIS, France -- France is sending up to 10 Mirage 2000 warplanes to join the U.S.-led military mission in Afghanistan.

The defence mnistry said on Saturday that a maximum of 10 Mirage 2000 bombers would attack al Qaeda locations from bases in central Asia, north of Afghanistan.

The precise location of the bases "is still in discussion with different countries," said ministry spokesman Jean-Francois Bureau.

Defence Minister Alain Richard said the mission was aimed at "attacking the infrastructure and remaining refuges of al Qaeda in Afghanistan."

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"This decision will be implemented in the next two weeks," he said.

In a televised speech on Friday, President Jacques Chirac said France would commit combat planes as well as first ground troops to the region.

Chirac said France would not let up in its support of the fight against Osama bin Laden and his "murderous madness."

"This action will continue until the heart of the terrorist network, and notably bin Laden, are neutralised," he said.

Early on Friday, France sent 58 troops on their way to Afghanistan, with stops in Turkey and Uzbekistan, to help secure the humanitarian aid effort near the northwestern city of Mazar-e Sharif, which was taken by the Northern Alliance last week. They are to arrive by Monday.

In addition, France plans to send 25 tons of medical supplies and housing materials, the foreign ministry said.

A DC-8 aircraft loaded with tents, blankets, water tanks and medicine was scheduled to leave Paris on Sunday for Uzbekistan.

Altogether, about 300 soldiers will be deployed, once the first group has assessed conditions on the ground, military officials say.

France already has intelligence officers in Afghanistan, part of a group of some 2,000 French military personnel involved in the military campaign, including naval and air force units.

Britain and Germany also announced European initiatives on Friday to send troops into Afghanistan.



 
 
 
 


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